Follow these 7 tips for better performance reviews

published by the Nashville Business Journal

Dread annual performance reviews? Most people do. Anxious employees may wonder if they’re performing up to par. Executives worry whether they made the grade or provided enough guidance to teams. But without mandated measurements like performance reviews, employees, leaders and organizations can’t improve and move forward. 

So instead of fearing those performance reviews, let’s try changing perspective. As one human resources executive put it perfectly: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” 

Remember, a leader’s job is to coach and develop people. But how can an employee grow with no benchmarks or systems to measure progress? Feedback is an essential component for nurturing natural talent, and the performance review is the formal vehicle for that feedback. 

They’re not going away anytime soon, but let’s can define some ways to reduce the stress level a little when it comes to performance reviews: 

1.Measurements – If you can’t measure performance, evaluations become very difficult. Measuring requires having predetermined objectives and clear goals to gauge against. For example, each fall Tractor Supply store managers work with district managers to establish reasonably attainable sales and profit goals for the following year. Team development and personal improvement goals are set at the same time. Whether professional or personal, every goal is measurable. 

2.Consistency – Try not to drastically change how you benchmark your team members. While you may tweak some evaluation parameters over time, pulling the rug out from under an employee will undermine trust. Having an effective review template and consistent check-ins will help manage expectations and avoid any “surprises” on either side of the evaluation. 

3.Self-evaluation – A great starting point is to ask each employee to judge his or her own current performance in key categories such as financial achievement, team development and personal improvement. I have found that most people are much tougher on themselves than a manager would be. Taking that into account, this is a helpful baseline for building a formal evaluation.

4.Regularity – Rather than saving everything for one sit-down meeting each year, check in with your people during regular mini reviews. The key to making the annual performance review process run smoothly is staging informal reviews all year long. That way you can stay current and head off issues as they come up, which will circumvent most un-pleasantries during the formal review.

5.Written evaluation – Put your thoughts down in writing, let them marinate for a day or so and then review them again. When you feel confident about your written survey, review it with your superior. You can also ask for input from an HR professional in your organization. Gaining fresh perspective from others may help you achieve greater clarity and objectivity.

6.Open dialogue – Conduct your evaluation discussions early in the day while everyone is fresh. Ask questions, encourage constructive dialog and be sure to focus much of the discussion on future achievements. The past is the past. You don’t have to avoid it altogether, but you will achieve more by focusing on the future.

7.Just the facts – Generalizing about vague topics is a quick path to disagreement. Stick to measureable performance facts. Come to a review prepared with specific examples of any issues you want to cover. Don’t gloss over the tough stuff; address it head on. If you postpone, the conversation will just become more difficult down the line.  

Have my tips helped reduce your performance review anxiety? I hope so. It’s always easier said than done, so keep practicing. 

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